Director – Vadim Jean, Screenplay – Vadim Jean & Robin Walker, Based on the Novel Bedlam by Harry Adam Knight [John Brosnan], Producer – Paul Brooks, Photography – Gavin Finney, Music – David A. Hughes & John Murphy, Special Effects Supervisor – Gary J. Tunnicliffe, Makeup/Prosthetic Effects – Image Animation (Supervisor – Jacquetta), Production Design – James Helps. Production Company – Metrodome Films/Bedlam Films
Craig Fairbrass (D.I. Terry Hamilton), Elizabeth Hurley (Dr Stephanie Lyell), Keith Allen (Marc Gilmour), Zoe Heyes (Josie Harrow), Anita Dobson (Judith Hamilton), Samantha Spiro (WPC Foster), Jack McKenzie (DCI Clery), Faith Kent (Miss Coope), Annette Badland (Nurse Wreckin), Georgina Hale (Sister Romulus)
Detective Terry Hamilton investigates a series of bizarre deaths in an apartment block. The trail leads him to psychiatrist Stephanie Lyell at the Institute for Neurological Research. He is shocked to find she is conducting experiments on Marc Gilmour, a vicious serial killer he apprehended, during the course of which his mother was killed. However, Lyell has been injecting both Gilmour and herself with the experimental drug BFND. This allows Gilmour to gain control of both Terry and Stephanie’s dreams where he proceeds to taunt them with parts of their lives they would rather forget in an attempt to drive them to kill themselves.
Beyond Bedlam is one of the films adapted from the books of John Brosnan. The late John Brosnan was an Australian writer resident in the UK who wrote a number of books on science-fiction cinema as well as a monthly column of waspish opinion in Starburst magazine. Under the pseudonym Harry Adam Knight (the spelling of the initials is intentional and shows that he holds his audience and the level of his own writing in clear contempt), Brosnan also wrote a number of horror novels. Several of Brosnan’s books were adapted into films during the mid-1990s. Though not necessarily any fault of Brosnan’s, these all ended up as cheap rip-offs of other films – Carnosaur (1993), which was a cheap copy of Jurassic Park (1993); this; and Proteus (1995), which was a tatty imitation of The Thing (1982).
It is probably indicative of Beyond Bedlam that star Elizabeth Hurley – who just subsequent to making the film became a highly successful Estee Lauder model and an A-list actress – took legal action to prevent the film’s release. Although why she bothered is a big question – Beyond Bedlam is too dull a film to be terrible. As with all of the John Brosnan film adaptations, Beyond Bedlam is a rip-off of other films – having clearly been dreamt up as an exercise in crossbreeding The Silence of the Lambs (1991) with A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). There is a gem of an idea at the centre of it but the script fails to make any sense – it never explains how Gilmour is able to take control of dreams and, as is the case with many Elm Street copies, the lines between dream and reality are blurred so often that what goes on becomes incomprehensible.
A large deal of the problem can be laid at the feet of the dreary direction of Vadim Jean who had just come from the success of the black comedy Leon the Pig Farmer (1993), which had attained some success on the festival circuit. Here however Vadim Jean is lacking in any imagination. Even bad Elm Street copies at least had the recompense of occasional moments of loopy surrealism – but Jean lacks even that. There are one or two moments that might have been looked better if directed with a less pedestrian hand – like where Craig Fairbrass is unsure if Zoe Heyes is dead or not; the dead Miss Coope confessing to incest; and especially the appearances of Anita Dobson as Craig Fairbrass’s mother, going through a repetitive cycle of making cups of tea while wearing a big bloody bullet hole in the front of her dress. The rest of the film plods its way to a thoroughly uninteresting conclusion.
Vadim Jean spent the next decade making a handful of films that hardly appear to have been seen. He did however return to some success with genre material, directing and adapting a series of tv productions based on Terry Pratchett’s comic fantasy Discworld books with Hogfather (2006) and The Colour of Magic (2008), as well as producing a third adaptation Going Postal (2010).